Although many pharmaceutical companies in the market today have concentrated a great deal of their funding and their efforts into providing better treatments or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new announcement from Sanofi, the French drug maker will not be one of the companies stretching to find an Alzheimer’s treatment. With many companies looking for a solution to the illness, which is expected to impact 65 million people across the globe by 2030, the news of Sanofi’s unwillingness to put substantial investment into product development came as a shock to many.

 

Chris Viehbacher, the Chief Executive Officer of Sanofi revealed this week that they would not be committing major resources to finding an Alzheimer’s treatment. The team at Sanofi believes that they simply cannot justify the spending, time and costs needed to develop a drug to actually treat Alzheimer’s disease because the science needed to make this type of discovery simply isn’t there yet. “We have to be humble in front of science”, says Viehbacher in an interview he held at the annual meeting of PhRMA.

 

During the interview, the representative for the company stated that they need to place more attention on the basic science behind the illness to really understand the cause of the disease and what is going on and that until the science is more clear, efforts to create a cure will not be effective.

 

I find it refreshing to hear a statement which honestly reflects the current state of Alzheimer’s disease research.  Those of us who have been in the Alzheimer’s field know Viehbacher’s statement to be true.  I applaud him for making this statement publically!  Why applaud?  Sometimes hope blinds us to reality.  Viehbacher was not afraid to tell the truth.

 

I believe it underlines the importance of increased research dollars for the National Institute of Aging – a commitment from the federal government to assist the research (Thank You President Obama for adding an additional $100M in your budget for AD research!), and it highlights the importance of programs and services for people with AD and their families (Thank You President Obama for the $20M placed in the budget for this specific purpose – we need your help keeping these dollars in there!).

 

I believe Viehbacher’s statement invites another topic for conversation – we need to financially assist families who are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or related dementias.  If there is no immediate cure on the horizon – care for people with the disease is the priority.  As a nation we are depending on the family to carry this burden.  But families most often cannot do everything required themselves.  They need help.  Families are paying out of pocket for adult day programs and home care.  What if we allowed them a tax deduction or directly paid for or provided the necessary services and programs?  We need to ask the question and start the dialogue because it may be awhile till there are better treatments and - hopefully one day - a cure.

 

There are currently more than 5 million people in the United States alone who have Alzheimer’s disease. While this condition often finds itself associated with the elderly, Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It is a serious, progressive, disease that attacks the brain and eventually causes complete brain failure and it is one of the top killers of adults in the United States today; and the number of people getting Alzheimer’s is growing every year. With such a strong presence in our society today, and research that estimate by 2050, nearly 14 million people in America will have the disease, it is important to beg the question; why isn’t more being done to put an end to Alzheimer’s disease?

Even though this year alone nearly half a million new cases of Alzheimer’s disease will be detected, there is still very little being invested into research or efforts to put an end to this disease. Perhaps some are not worried because Alzheimer’s disease typically won’t impact them until they are over the age of 65. Others may not worry because they don’t understand Alzheimer’s disease and assume that it is a normal part of aging and that it is as simple as extreme memory loss. How wrong is this thinking.

The disease is growing and impacting millions, and it needs to be stopped.

Unfortunately, there is very little in terms of a federal investment in Alzheimer’s research or care when compared to other medical conditions. This does not take into account the enormous financial, emotional, physical and psychological burden on caregivers nationwide and worldwide

Of course I am aware of the proposed $100 million dollar BRAIN project that President Obama announced yesterday. No doubt this President - unlike others - has shown interest in the Alzheimer's cause. Increasing the Alzheimer's research dollar's by $50 million a year ago, the inclusion of Alzheimer's in the State of the Union Address, and some would even say that yesterday's announcement support the statement. But if the $100 million is funded the BRAIN initiative is not Alzheimer's specific dollars. Alzheimer's as well as many other diseases MAY benefit from the study. Did you know that the National Institute of Aging has a boat load of very viable, worthy research proposals that are specifically for the furthering of Alzheimer's understanding, treatment and possibly a cure which it has to deny due to lack of funds? Do we really need another initiative or do we need to direct the investment to critical areas already prepared and simply waiting on funding?

The bigger question…Why is Alzheimer's the runt of the litter? Why does it need to enveloped in the hope that some other initiative may lend it some insight? Why is there such a significant gap between the need and the remedy? Why is so little financial support offered to caregivers? Why the disparity? If this was a disease impacting children would it be different? Perhaps so.

This is why I believe we must re-act to Alzheimer’s disease. It’s time to do more, it’s time to invoke more passion, it’s time to rage and really fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Perhaps more importantly it is time to get the cause out of the mud of indifference, fear, and servitude.

Why rage? I think the cause has no future, no hope of increased funding for research, no additional services provided to individuals with AD unless the people who care put their foot down and make demands. Why are we satisfied because a proposed initiative such as BRAIN "may help our cause?" Alzheimer's is a national health crisis. It is a global health crisis! It deserves its own research dollars - fully funded! Gone is the time when we asked or advocated for what the cause needs. We have been passive, permissive, for much too long. How do I know? In my 12 years in this field not much has changed.

It is time to rage and to enact a healthy, justified tirade for change, so that action can be taken to put an end to this disease for good.

Click below to stay in touch and get involved. More to come!

feed-image Subscribe to this Blog